On Nov. 4, many of us asked how this could have happened.

The same day we elected a president who promises change, our state and country took steps backward in the fight for equality by passing amendments that limit the rights of same-sex couples.

Along with the shock of Proposition 8 passing in California, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to create equality for all.

Goodwin Liu, an associate dean and professor of law at UC Berkeley, recently wrote in an op-ed in the L.A. Times that the 18,000 same-sex couples and their families who legally married before Proposition 8 are a “potential catalyst for broader acceptance of gay marriage.” He writes that “the more familiar we become with gay spouses and their children — as our friends, neighbors and co-workers — the more gay marriage will become an unremarkable thread of our social fabric.”

Liu’s message should extend to everyone who believes in equality, that we should all work as “potential catalysts” by reframing the debate on same-sex marriage — that it is about our rights, regardless of sexual orientation, and that it’s all our struggle.

In the aftermath of Proposition 8, it’s hard not to feel despair for our state and our future. But if we take a look at recent history, there is hope to be found.

Proposition 22, nearly identical to Proposition 8, was brought before the voters in the 2000 primary elections. Eight years ago, Proposition 22 passed by a margin of 61.4 to 38.6 percent, with about 4.6 million voters supporting and 2.9 million voters opposing it.

Last week, Proposition 8 passed by a margin of 52.5 to 47.5 percent. Californians flocked to the polls in muchhigher numbers than the 2000 primary. At press time, about 6 million votes had been counted in favor of Proposition 8, while 5.5 million had been counted against it.

Here’s how the math breaks down in comparing the two propositions: 1.4 million more people voted for Proposition 8 than for 22, and 2.5 million more people voted against Proposition 8 than against 22.

These numbers clearly demonstrate the slow, but certain shift in public opinion regarding same-sex marriages. In just eight years, the gap between supporters and opponents narrowed from a difference of 22.8 percent to a mere 5 percent.

One of the biggest differences between these two elections was the so-called “youth vote,” which encompasses voters aged 18 to 29. The under-30 set accounted for just 5 percent of voters in 2000, but made up 20 percent of voters in 2008.

According to CNN’s Proposition 8 exit polls, Californians aged 18 to 29 were split about 60 to 40 percent on Proposition 8, with the majority opposing it; meanwhile, those aged 65 and older were split 40 to 60 percent, with the majority supporting it.

Though they can’t vote yet, California’s children will play an important role in the future of same-sex marriage.

Two weeks ago, the MyVote California Student Mock General Election polled about 600,000 elementary through high school students from over 900 schools across California. Of those who voted on Proposition 8, 43.5 percent voted to pass and 56.5 percent voted against it.

It’s worth mentioning that only three of these schools were located in San Francisco County; the counties with the highest participation were Los Angeles and San Diego, both of which supported the passing of Proposition 8.

As these children grow up and become the “youth vote” themselves, this fight will become their fight too — and the numbers are encouraging.

Keeping in mind that 30 percent of the voters in Santa Cruz County supported the measure, many of us know at least one person out of the 6 million Californians who voted yes on Proposition 8. Some of them might be our parents, relatives, and friends.

We all come from different neighborhoods and religious communities that might not be as accepting or informed about the inequality. We have to reframe the debate to show that we are advocates of same-sex marriage, and use our social influence to explain to those around us that this is our right as American citizens.

The passage of Proposition 8 showed that the fight for change is long from over. The fight has been taken to the streets, where thousands of same-sex marriage supporters continue to protest. It is being taken back into the courts, thanks to three lawsuits filed after Nov. 4, and 43 Democratic legislators who filed a brief on Monday urging the California Supreme Court to void Proposition 8.

So don’t despair, because equality is going to happen; it’s only a matter of time. As the fight for equality continues in the courts and in the streets in the following weeks, months, and possibly years, we need to become activists and work with those around us to create change.

That doesn’t mean joining a Facebook group or wearing a button — it means actually talking to people who have differing viewpoints, and showing them how this decision affects our lives and our friends’ lives. It means being audible and visible, whether we’re one-on-one with our neighbors or organizing with the masses at rallies and protests.

To borrow a line from Beat legend Allen Ginsberg: America, we’re putting our queer shoulder to the wheel.